1960 Logan East Junior High School

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Photos courtesy of Bob Piros. Any help identifying the students and teachers in these photos will be appreciated. If you can identify someone or yourself, please convey the roll number and student number in that row. 1960 Logan East Junior … Continue reading

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Cherry Tree Reunions

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The little town at the mouth of Buffalo Creek

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight WilliamsonMan, W.Va., was incorporated in 1918. The formal boundaries for the Town of Man encompass a land area of 1.1 sq. miles and a water area of 0.05 sq. miles. The elevation is 738 feet.

February 26th marked the anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster that took place in 1972. For those of us who were around back then, it was an almost unbelievable time of regret. Blackened waters, the result of a broken coal slurry pond following heavy rain at the head of Buffalo Creek, wiped out 16 communities, took the lives of 125 people, injured 1,121 others and left at least 4,000 homeless. The national news descended upon the Man area community. How interesting it is that the dam was inspected just four days earlier by a federal mine inspector, who declared the site to be “satisfactory.”

As a sophomore at Marshall University that fateful day, I recall my mother telephoning me (pay phone in the hallway) at the South Hall dormitory where I lived to give me the horrific news. But it was not until I saw the television news that I realized the full severity of this catastrophic and now historical event. At the time, about the only thing I knew about Man, West Virginia, was the fact that the place produced some really good athletes and that the Man Pioneers and Hillbillies were huge rivals of both Logan and Chapmanville, and even Sharples, Holden and Omar Junior high school athletic programs. Well, with time comes knowledge, I suppose, so, I now want to share some history with you, the readers.

First, let me assure you that I feel fairly certain there is nowhere else in the good ‘ole U.S.A. where a community exists with the name of “Man.” Of course, I also would be willing to be bet there is no place in the country called “Woman.” But that’s another story. So, let’s just pretend to be tuned into a version of the History or Discovery Channel and title this reading as— “The History of Man.”

The town has long been reported to have derived its name from the last syllable of the last name of Ulysses Hinchman, who according to founder of The Logan Banner and historian, Henry Clay Ragland, obtained about 2,000 acres between the years of 1840 and 1848, which included property at Madison Creek, Sandlick, Rich Creek, Laurel Fork and other places, mostly along the Guyandotte River. As a member of one of the early families of Logan County, Hinchman was also one of the early doctors of the area and was the county’s census taker. In addition, Ragland wrote that he also served as superintendent of schools, pastor, trader, and he also represented Logan County in the legislature from 1840 until 1858.

In an interview with Laura Hinchman, a descendant of Ulysses, local historian, Bob Spence, reported that “They were even going to call the place Hinchman… but they thought the name was too long. So they just called it Man.” It should be noted that Mr. Hinchman’s wife was Rebecca McDonald, as in McDonald Land Company, which still lays claims to much of the Triadelphia area. So, it would seem logical that the Guyandotte River town received its name from Ulysses Hinchman. However, a Logan Banner newspaper story from 1924 indicates otherwise. Here’s what I’ve found out about the little town located at the mouth of Buffalo Creek.

The 1924 headline reads: “Man, Fastest Growing Town in Logan County—History of How It was Named”. The story reads as follows:

“It is a center of a population of 10,000, and it has everything it takes to make a city, even to a Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce is big stuff, it is the latest development of a town that does nothing else but develops, so the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. It’s about the new commerce body that we shall first speak.” The story proceeded to say that an organizational meeting had been held in the Burgess Theatre building and the result was a “full grown thriving business body, with F.M. Burgess named President; George Barrick, president of the Man mining Company, vice-president; W.W. Goodwin, secretary, and J.L. Jones, proprietor of the Man Drug Company, treasurer.” The Banner reported that at the initial meeting the men laid out an outline for the town—“a city paving program, the boosting of good roads, keeping the city clean, and the fostering of all beneficial movements.”

The article said the “city” of Man had only one church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, but added that plans for the building of another church, yet, another Methodist Episcopal Church. The report said, “The new church will be built sometime this summer” (1926). “A new modern bank building will be built by the Merchants and Miners bank within the next year.” The story said the local banking institution had been established for two years and “was among the best of the small banks doing business in the Guyan Valley.” The bank, however, did not survive the Great Depression that crippled the nation just a few years later, starting in 1929.

Among the mines operating in the vicinity of Man at the time were Mallory Coal Company, Standard Island Creek Coal Company, Bengall Coal Company and the Man Mining Company.

When the railroad finally reached the Man area connecting it to Logan in about 1920 was when the community realized its growth potential, and by 1926, The Banner was reporting that the then County Court had agreed to the construction of a road between what was then the community of Wilburn and Rum Junction, which when completed, would finally connect Logan and Man with a real road. The story further read: “And with the completion of the road between Charleston and Logan this year, the city will have a hard road connection with the capital city.” The article also reported that the town’s streets were to finally be paved this same year.

South Man, one of the nicest communities in the county even today, was just beginning. Described “as the latest addition to the town,” it was depicted as being “a level stretch of land along the Guyan River which has been prepared for a residential district.” The story relayed that “a number of beautiful residences have been built in the section during the past year, and many others are being planned for the future.”

The history of Man isn’t as ancient history by any means, but its name has been described as the “first provoking feature of the little city.” The Banner’s story reported, “The name is unique by its very simplicity, and how it got tagged so is the result of a blunder on the part of the government’s official post office namer. Perhaps it was a bold stroke promoted by inspiration. Anyway, this is how it came about:

A few years ago the matter of naming the clump of houses, store and mine fell to the namer’s lot of task. He was told that the place was located at the junction of Buffalo Creek and the Guyan River. He wished to verify the information so he took his map in hand. There was indeed a spot at the point designated.

Nothing phases a man who has named some of the places in this county and the patient, uninspired plodder, we presume, thought of his thankless labor, the moil, toil and tediousness of it, his thoughts turned inward and he stuck his pen deep into the ink and scratched out the name Man.

So, it is not in the anticipation of a full grown city that the man gave the dot on the map the name of Man, his actions being nothing more than the result of following the course of least resistance,” according to the Banner story, adding that “It was a good stroke and the people of the little city are proud of the name, because of its very significance.”

The town of Man’s population in the latest census was 759 in 2010, which included 36.3 percent of those residents under the age of 18 as living below the poverty line. Like most of southern West Virginia, the Triadelphia area has been hit hard by the lack of coal mining, but unlike some places, it still enjoys an influx of tourism business generated by visiting Hatfield and McCoy trail riders. It is hoped that when the new road from Man to Logan is completed more opportunities for the area will arise.

Readers should know that the town of Wilbur mentioned earlier in this story is no longer even on the map. However, for historical purposes, it should be realized that the coal camp community was located on the property that is now the site of Walker Machinery. It should also be noted that in 1926 the district high school in the community had an enrollment of only 125 pupils, but the school was defined as a “first class institution.”

Another interesting factor from that time period is that the Man community consisted of Taplin, Mallory, Landville, Bengall, and Kistler. It would seem that other Triadelphia areas had not yet been developed by the various coal companies that would follow.

*Published with permission.

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Cherry Tree Grade School

“If my source is right, the Cherry Tree School was built about the time of the First World War (1917). One of the carpenters was Mr. L. E. (Ed) Steele. He was the father of Edna Steele who was married to Doc Erwin Hall (Hall’s Drug Store).” — Eddie Atkins

My mother, Virginia Taylor, attended the Yuma School and the two schools used to have spelling bees against each other. When she was in the third or fourth grade she could spell down the much older kids.

Cherry Tree Grade School

Cherry Tree Grade School

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Attending first grade at J. B. Ellis got me off to a rather rocky start as the teacher’s kid (more about that later).  My education was off to a smoother ride as I entered second grade at Cherry Tree Grade with Sally Gore as my teacher in 1947.  Each morning there would be a slight delay as I waited for Gene & Ethel Mae Coffey.  Mrs. Coffee would be braiding Ethel Mae’s hair into pig tails. The three of us would then head out to school. Our reader in second grade was “Jim & Judy Rides,” I believe, and we loved to hear Miss Gore read us stories like “Little Billy Goat Gruff.

Our Principal was Lucille Von Pechy. She taught the 3rd & 4th grade. Mrs. Von Pechy wore a smock (pink, as I recollect) with convenient pockets to place her hands while talking to us or to retrieve her whistle.  Her whistle was used to announce the end of recess.  At the bottom of the tall classroom windows, she had installed little curtains to prevent us from daydreaming and being distracted from out books. Wow, Lucille! Wasn’t that a little over handed?  Mrs. Von Pechy would help shape our lives forever.

Mrs. Von Pechy was quite the” handyman.” One day she asked if anyone who was going home for lunch could bring her back a plane to smooth the rough edges of her desk   she was snagging her hose most every day. I proudly volunteered and promptly brought back my Dad’s plane when I returned from lunch. Embarking on her little project, she exclaimed:  “This thing wouldn’t cut hot butter!” Almost immediately she cut her finger on the plane. It wasn’t funny at the time.

Lucile von Pechy

Mrs. Von Pechy disciplined us to line up in front of the school to pledge allegiance.  I can still see her playing the old upright piano as we sang “Ten Little Tadpoles swimming in and Out.”  My mind jumps back to the installation of the gas heater which replaced the pot bellied coal burning stove as well as the building of book shelves under the classroom windows. These activities took place during our school day. Then there was the day a hush feels over the room when someone came to get Beulah Samson due to the death of her mother.  We were all saddened that our classmate had lost her mother.  Beulah and I have been close friends since second grade and are still in close contact and we often reminisce about the days at Cherry Tree Grade School and how it shaped our lives.

Death would affect our lives again that when Charles Tiller died expectantly from infected tonsils.  Mrs. Von Pechy asked for volunteers to act as flower bearers at his funeral at the Pilgrim Holiness Church and I was among the volunteers.  Riding in the open pickup truck to the cemetery, I couldn’t help but think back about the little skiff the year before when I had chased Charles home and threw a rock at him.  The rock went through the front window of the Tiller home. That was followed by my delivery of a new window pane and apology at the direction of my father.  Of course we were on good terms at the time of his death, but that childish act was to haunt me for a long time.

During recess with games of hop scotch, volleyball, “skin a cat,” the monkey bars, etc., friendly C & O engineers waved to us and we thrilled to the occasional toot of their locomotive whistle. The sight of the intimidating, rugged looking Posey Griffith, truant officer, was enough to scare the dickens out of all of us when he would make his rounds to check on the attendance of students such as Dickie Bill Hood or Thomas Ripley.  This also brings back memories of smelly tennis shoes worn by a couple of our more deprived peers. Although many of us were poor without being aware of that fact, tennis shoes were just not a part of the normal school apparel in that day.

Miss Sterling visited weekly (in the afternoon, immediately after recess) for a flannel graph Bible story. In addition to Baby Ruth, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Payday and Zagnut bars, there were the popular candy cigarettes, candy lips and candy mustaches as well as wax flutes which we purchased at the door of the 1st & 2nd grade cloak room in Miss Sally Gores’ room. The money would eventually go for new playground equipment.

Frema Dingess, Principal  1950-1956

From a  telephone conversation that Bob Piros had with Frema Dingess in February of 2012.

She started out teaching in 1939 at Ethel @ 18 and retired in 1974. She worked 6 years at CT school. She thought it might have been torn down in 1956.

She went to Marshall then to WVU where she received her teaching degree.

She recalls a Cathy Robinson who lived next door to CT school who took in children & helped them.

She remembers me & my cousin Bob, Mike Ratz, the Nagy boys(one of her nieces is married to one of them). Doris Nagy is who she had to contact to get the job at CT school.

She recalled where we lived in the brick house, my parents.

She said that Billy Earlywine also live in Chapmanville and has a kitchen cabinet business.

– Bob Piros

Memories of Frema Dingess as told to Bob Piros by Margaret (Buckles) Craggs

Frema  Dingess was a dear woman.  I adored her and my parents were influenced to name my sister , born when I was in first grade, “Frema”.  She became a good family friend.  We moved to Cleveland, Ohio July of 1954

Mrs. Dingess visited us while she was in town one summer.  As I recall, she was probably in her mid 40’s at the time.  However, to a little girl, everyone over 20 was “old” .

I do not remember her being principal.  My only memories are of Ms. Dingess teaching 1st grade and Ms. Von Pechy teaching 2nd and 3rd grades and being principal.

We  lived in White’s Addition but I am not the girl whose party you attended.  Immediately across the bridge was a street and a big white house on the corner of that street.  The Whites lived in that big house (big compared to our house anyway).  We lived in an alley-way just to the left of that big white house in a rental owned by the Whites.  I wonder if they had anything  to do with the naming of the community?

I do remember the store you are talking about…I seem to recall it was owned by a family called “Davis”.  The woman who worked there was named, I believe, “Velma”.

I was probably one of the girls who won the spelling bee – nothing I can recall specifically, but I was always at the ‘head of the line’.  I couldn’t understand how people could not spell a word – it was always easy to me (Today I can’t spell with a darn – spell check on the computer has ruined me).

I can remember the school very well and Ms. Dingess.  I can’t recall exactly what Ms. Von Pechy looked like other than she was older, heavier and stricter.  I lived in fear of her  paddle but fortunately, never received that punishment.  Seems  as though only the boys got paddled.

I remember walking to school and passing by the house just before the school with the crazy roosters.  They would fly out and bite our legs and scare us to death.  We weren’t allowed to cross the road to get away from them – of course, we would never have disobeyed our parents.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember you.  My mom would have remembered your family for sure, but she has long ago passed away.  Where did you live?

Two years ago my sister and I drove back to WV and visited the old neighborhood.  I hardly recognized it.  Many of the homes I remember were gone.  I was surprised that the road, the bridge and railroad were just as I remembered though.  There wasn’t anyone living there that I remembered.

We moved to Cleveland in summer of 1954 and I married and raised my two sons in a nearby suburb of Cleveland.  You  are in CA?

It was very nice to hear from you and recall those happy days.  Please let me know if I can try to answer any other questions or give any info for the memory project.

Margaret (Buckles) Craggs

You can help preserve a bit of the memories of the Cherry Tree Grade School by sharing your photos and memories with us. To share a photo, please email it to the admin at loganwv.us@gmail.com.

You may also like: Mt. Gay Elementary School

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City losing another historical structure

By Dwight Williamson

Guyan Supply Company Building (1912-2014)Another relic of the town of Logan is in the process of disappearing. URCO Incorporated purchased the property from the State Auditor’s Office for taxes and employees are currently razing the 102-year-old structure located on Hudgins Street across from the Logan Post Office.

The building was built and opened in 1912 as Guyan Supply Company just as the local coal industry started to boom. Located next to the railroad tracks, it was convenient for the unloading of goods from trains which the fast growing area needed. Incorporated in 1904, the business was started prior to the building’s construction with 250 shares at $1 00 each for “the purpose of dealing in wholesale and retail; specifically, feed, flour, sewer tile, miners’ supplies, iron pipes and to acquire, own and lease real estate necessary for said purposes” as noted in County Clerk records.

U.B. Buskirk, who had built and originally lived in what became known as the “Hinchman House” that now is a parking lot at the end of Hudgins Street, was one of the stockholders, as was attorney J. Carey Alderson, who opened the first bank in the county (Guyan Valley Bank).

In 1913 there was a new agreement for the purposes of “enlarging and modifying the incorporation.” Capital stock was listed at $25,000 with the new stockholders being J.R. Godby (50.43 shares), S.B. Browning (101.86), Mary Browning (1), J.C. Elkins (17.14), Ella Godby (1) and T .E. Browning (68.57 shares). Added to the certificate was the ability of the company to “lease and sell real estate and to operate and mine coal.”

In 1914, the stockholders, with S.B. Robertson serving as president of the company, voted to change the name of the company to Browning Land Company. The site has served many purposes over the years, including the Galleria flower shop; the last business being the Closet Swap now located on Main Street.

Mike Urioste, owner and operator of HURCO, who is responsible for the demolition of many area structures, noted there are no steel beams in the building as wood was used in its place.

“The building might have been saved,’’ he said, “but the flat roof was the main problem and it would cost a considerable amount to repair.”

Urioste said his immediate plans once demolition is completed are to put down a paved parking lot.

*Published with permission. This article first appeared in The Logan Banner, February 28, 2014.

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Early Logan Co.: A mighty tough place to live

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight WilliamsonFrom everything I’ve been able to discover over the years, it appears Logan County was a mighty tough place to live, particularly during the 1800’s. There were no real law enforcement officers, and oftentimes matters were settled—let’s just say—outside of a court room. The Hatfield-McCoy feud is a prime example. However, there were many other happenings— some of which that ended with gunfights that resembled old western shootouts. And there were several hangings, especially of black slaves when one of them was said to have committed a crime. The only white person hanged at the Logan courthouse (that was ever reported or recorded) was a prominent lawyer in 1897. And in as much as some readers may rejoice in hearing this lawyer news, I will relay the information which I uncovered from a Madison newspaper printed in 1939.

M.L. Jones, who taught school in Logan County during the 1880’s, tells the story of Charley Williams, whose untimely death came with the snapping of his neck in the Logan courthouse yard. Jones, who said he was listening to the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” on the radio when he was reminded of Williams, who he said was a well renowned banjo player in these Appalachian hills.

“Good banjo players were scare in Logan about 1883, and he and his banjo were welcome almost anywhere,” Jones explained. “But Charley Williams was no wondering minstrel. He was a man of intelligence and culture. He was of a leading family in eastern Virginia. While he was still a boy he joined Lee’s army, and was present at Appomattox. His people must have saved a little money; for after the war he took a course in law and practiced a while in Logan, then went back to Virginia. He returned to Logan about 1883 and for a short time was a leading lawyer of the Logan bar.

“I think I must have met Williams first while staying a couple of days at a home on Main Island Creek near where the Anse Hatfield monument is now. He was boarding there and borrowed a shotgun, and we strolled up the creek with it. Seeing a squirrel in a tree, he handed the gun to me and told me to shoot the squirrel. I told him I had never shot a gun in my life, but he insisted. I pulled the trigger, and the squirrel fell to the ground. Charley Williams was my partner in my first, last, and only squirrel hunt.”

According to the report, Williams did well for about three years, but by 1896 he was drinking heavily, but was described as “not being quarrelsome” and only “pleasantly conversational”. “I remember that while Bruce McDonald and I were teaching in the first schoolhouse built at Logan, Williams, feeling pretty full, said to me, ‘I like you Jones. You should study law; you would make a good judge.’ By 1897 his drunk spells lasted longer, and he reportedly became obsessed with the idea that certain men were his enemies. If anybody tried to rebuke or argue with him, he was terribly insulted.

“He began to mutter as he walked about,” Jones said. “People heard him say, always to himself, ‘I’ll kill him, or I’ll shoot him.’ Several men around Logan began to be afraid of him when he was drunk. It would have been well if Jim Aldredge had been afraid of Charley. Aldredge was a nephew of William—a sister’s son. He was almost as old as his uncle, and was County Surveyor, married and with several children. But not being afraid of him, he did his utmost from time to time to take care of him.

Doubtless, with what little mind the besotted lawyer had left, he fancied Aldredge was insulting him.

“One day Aldredge approached Williams and said something to him, which people thought might have been, ‘come with me.’ Before Aldredge or the bystanders realized the danger, Williams drew a pistol, said ‘I’ll kill you,’ and shot Aldredge through the heart. At once there was a great commotion. The gun was taken from Williams and he was put in jail. On either the second or third night, I don’t remember which, a mob took Williams from the jail and hung him in the court house yard.

“Thus, the only white man ever hung in Logan was a lawyer, a man of family and education, and originally a gentleman.”

*Published with permission.

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The legendary Don Chafin

By Dwight Williamson

Don Chafin (June 26, 1887 – August 9, 1954)

Don Chafin (1887 – 1954)

While great detail will be given in a future edition of this newspaper regarding the history of legendary Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin and the very house in which he lived, for today’s purposes, I would like to relate a story that few people living nowadays have ever been aware of — a cold blooded murder in which Chafin was arrested, tried, and declared not guilty.

Though Chafin is widely known for his exploits while serving as the most famous sheriff in West Virginia, and his involvement at the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, Chafin actually wore many political hats in his lifetime before being convicted of moonshining in 1924, after a former deputy, who happened to be Devil Anse Hatfield’s son (Tennis Hatfield), testified against him. Chafin was sentenced to an Atlanta, Georgia prison for two years in 1925. After returning from prison, Chafin realized his political strength had been incredibly weakened and moved to Huntington in 1936 where he lived as a millionaire until 1954, when he died at age 67. A victim of several heart attacks, the man once known as the “Czar of Logan County,” reportedly succumbed from complications following surgery. However, an incident that occurred on a sultry 1917 Saturday night in July at a Mud Fork community now known as Hedgeview could have — and perhaps should have — kept Chafin from ever becoming the powerful person he was. Chafin, whose father was sheriff of the county from 1894 until 1898, also had an uncle (John), who was county clerk for years, and another uncle (James) who served as county clerk in Mingo County, after it was formed from Logan. In addition, he was a cousin to former Logan Judge J.B. Wilkinson, who built the home that now serves as Honaker Funeral Home on Main Street. Leviacy Hatfield, the proud wife of Devil Anse, was Don Chafin’s second cousin. Keeping all these facts in mind, one can understand how a man with such influences could get away with murder; especially if your brother-in-law (Frank Hurst) was the sheriff. Interestingly enough, Chafin would in 1920 purchase the house, now know as the Chafin House, from Hurst for $27,500. It still today stands on Main Street in Logan. Here is the story of the shooting and trial as reported in the Logan Democrat, a former rival newspaper of The Logan Banner.

“Frank Kazee, 26-years-old, was shot and instantly killed last Saturday night on Mud Fork about three and a half miles from Logan by a bullet fired from a pistol in the hands of Don Chafin, deputy county clerk, according to a verdict of a jury impaneled by Coroner Bryant Sunday morning which heard the evidence.”

The story went on to say that around midnight on a Saturday two vehicles, which were referred to as “machines” by the newspaper writer, were traveling up the creek in the vicinity of the home of J.B. Ellis when the “machine” carrying Chafin, Harold McCormick, Jim Wagner, Lummie Widener and Julius Curry passed the “machine” in which Abe Kirk, Cage Kirk and Kazee were riding. Kazee was in the back seat. Although not reported, it is believed that words were exchanged in what could be called one of Logan County’s first cases of road rage. The report said Chafin’s machine stopped about twenty yards from the place where the other vehicle had chosen to turn around. Chafin approached the vehicle and demanded to know who the passengers were. Abe Kirk is said to have answered: “You know us, Don.” To this, Frank Kazee is said to have added: “Sure, Don, you know us.” Chafin backed up a few yards, and then approached the vehicle again. Chafin reportedly opened the side door and is said to have fired the shot which killed Kazee. Chafin “returned to his machine and drove back to town.”

The two Kirks also started for town and rode for some time before they looked back to speak to Kazee. When he did not answer, they discovered him dead. The story said the Kirks had previously thought that Chafin had fired the pistol “just to have a little sport.”

Following his posting of a $5000 bond the next day, Chafin is said to have been “visibly affected by the tragedy.” He said he had no recollection whatever of the previous night. And he added that he had no memory of shooting the boy and that such a thing was “entirely out of his mind.”

Chafin saw the boy’s father and reportedly tried to comfort him as best he could. He ordered the undertaker to “spare no expense in giving the youth a burial.” “I never felt so bad in my life,” declared Chafin to a reporter. The Kazee boy was a good friend of mine and I can’t remember shooting him at all. I would not think of doing such a thing. I cannot be convinced yet that I killed him. When the officers came for me and told me that I had shot him, I could not believe them. It seemed so foolish to think that I would do anything like that. The whole events of Saturday night are absolutely a blank to me. I have no recollection of anything taking place that night.”

Chafin’s words, having been spoken like a true politician, set the stage for his trial that came about three months later in October.

The headline for October 18th read: “Don Chafin Is Acquitted of Murder Charge By Jury”. The story said the jury had been out for nearly four hours before reaching its decision. Special appointed Prosecutor Meeks of Huntington made the statement to the court that “a material witness for the state, Cage Kirk, was being held out of jurisdiction of the court” and he implicated two deputy sheriffs of the county in the implied abduction. However, Meeks refused to divulge the source of his information, the newspaper reported. Chafin’s attorney then requested that two special deputy sheriffs be appointed to take charge of the jury so that “no reflections should be cast upon Sheriff Hurst,” who was Chafin’s brother-in-law.

The newspaper report said that during testimony Chafin had offered to tell the prosecutor who it was that sent Cage Kirk away, but he was “not asked nor permitted to do so”. John Marcum, Chafin’s defense attorney, later told the jury that it was Chafin’s “political enemies” who were responsible for sending Cage Kirk out of the jurisdiction of the court. He also confused the jury more by asserting that a “fund raised by the same source” was responsible for the appearance in the case of attorney Lance Marcum, as assistant to Prosecutor Meeks.

Without Cage Kirk, his brother, Abe Kirk, was the only real witness for the prosecution. He told of the defendant and Julius Curry “leaving the machine in which they were riding and coming up to the machine which he was driving, and of the words that passed there.” Kirk said he heard gunfire and saw the flash which came from Don Chafin, but did not see any weapon, and could not swear who shot Kazee, who was sitting alone in the back seat. He also stated that he did not know at the time that Kazee had been shot nor did he know that he had been killed until later.

The key witnesses for the defense were Chafin and Julius Curry. Curry testified that Chafin did not shoot Kazee and that the gunfire came from behind both of them, and that he saw no gun flash. Chafin, testifying on his own behalf, denied having fired the gun that killed Kazee, and swore that on the night of the murder he had no weapon with him. He substantiated the testimony of other witnesses that he and the murdered man had been friendly.

So it was that on a hot summer night in Logan County in the year of 1917 a bunch of joy riding young men, who were probably all drinking the liquor of their choices, and having access to early vehicles which were few in the county, were out on a typical Saturday night drive. Chafin did not appreciate words being exchanged by occupants of the car he had just passed. Chafin’s drinking would come into play in later life, when he reportedly got drunk and entered a UMWA establishment making idle threats. It was there he was shot in the chest by an official who hated him anyway.

The trial itself was nothing but a stage for actors in the play. The one witness who could positively identify Don Chafin as the killer was taken out of town by Sheriff Hurst’s deputies, while the special assistant Prosecutor named was related to the defense attorney. Toss in a few “ringers” on the jury, and Chafin’s future was secured. The man, who at age 21, had previously been elected assessor of Logan County in 1908, would become sheriff in 1912. At the close of his term, in 1916, he was appointed county clerk, and in 1920 was again elected sheriff. The Battle of Blair Mountain would happen the very next year. Fact is, had Chafin been found guilty, as he should have been, there may never have been a “Blair Mountain”, and oh, how Logan County’s history would be altered.

*Published with permission.

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The historic cemetery in Logan

By Dwight Williamson

“People who die are not buried in a field, they are buried in the heart” — Anonymous.

Headstone of Ann Lawson (1783-1847) photo by Dwight Williamson

Headstone of Ann Lawson (1783-1847)

There exists a somewhat forgotten yet historic cemetery in the town of Logan. Located on High Street, it is unintentionally hidden from view and rarely receives visitors. Like the ghostly former home of legendary Logan Sheriff Don Chafin located on Main Street, it stoically awaits the efforts of any one who cares about its past, and certainly its future. Amazingly, there are those citizens, many living within corporate limits of the town, who do not even know the whereabouts of either, much less the history surrounding them.

In the graveyard, which in courthouse records has been called by many names — including the City Cemetery, Aracoma Cemetery, Logan Cemetery and even “Our” Cemetery — disembodied spirits have long watched from their perches on the hill the triumphs and transgressions of the town of Logan since at least the early 1800s. Perhaps these kindred spirits watch with interest for good reason; after all, many of the deceased were responsible for the creation and evolution of the small Guyandotte village. Through the years their community has vastly changed, even in name — from first being called “The Islands”, then Logan Court House, then Lawnsville, then Aracoma and finally Logan. Some “residents” of the cemetery have no doubt witnessed the coming and going of five different Logan courthouses and the 1964 construction of the present one.

So it is with all due respect to the “citizens” of the graveyard that I present the following information:

First, no person or entity lays claim to the property. A vigorous search of the offices of County Clerk and Assessor in Logan reveals no title or deed to the cemetery. However, in the map room of the Assessor’s office the property is clearly mapped and is titled “City  Cemetery.” For it to be mapped it means there was a survey — of which there is no plat on record. The courthouse fire of 1912 could have caused this dilemma, but there could be other reasons. Perhaps the map was never recorded.

There is, however, a remarkable map that has been copied which shows the original land grants that were handed out following the Revolutionary War to some veterans of that titanic struggle to gain America’s independence. The map shows what then were “the islands”, now just one island and the site of Logan High School. Several tracts were obtained by Anthony Lawson, said to be the first person to open a trading post in what is now Logan. One tract of 109 acres he obtained in 1842, and it appears the cemetery is contained within that tract. It makes perfect sense because it is in the center of this cemetery that his wife, Ann Lawson, is buried after being murdered.

Lawson opened his trading post near the present day location of Logan City Hall. It was from there he operated in the fur and ginseng trade. He took his bounty down the Guyandotte River upon occasion and sold and traded the goods. On a return trip from Philadelphia, Pa., in 1846 Lawson reportedly died of cholera at Guyandotte in Cabell County. There is no report of his burial place ever mentioned and it is likely not locally  located due to the circumstances of the time. Undoubtedly, he too would have been in the town’s cemetery, and he is not.

However, the tragic saga of his wife is almost told in totality on her tombstone, still very  legible today in the local cemetery on the hill in Logan. Surrounded by an iron fence, the inscription on her tombstone reads:

“Ann Lawson, wife of Anthony Lawson, of Logan County, Va., who was born in the parish of Longhorsby, in the county of Northumberland, England on the 17th day of March A.D. 1783 Murdered on the night of the 17th of December, 1847 by two of her own slaves.” There certainly  was no newspaper in the area to report it then, but it has been handed down for years and even written that the two black men were hanged. There was no trial. There was no jury.

So, less than a year after the tragic loss of her mountaineering husband and eight days before Christmas, the mother of four sons — John, Lewis, James and Anthony — probably met up with her beloved spouse at the age of 64. When one considers that data shows the life expectancy of persons born in the year 1900 was to be 47, both of the Lawsons had lived a fairly long lifetime for the time frame in which they perished; Mr. Lawson being 67 when he died in 1846. Their sons would grow up to become leading citizens of the community.

The historical significance of Ann Lawson’s demise is that it shows that some 80 years before the advent of the Civil War, area residents, long before we became Logan County (1824 ) or even the state of West Virginia (1863), utilized slaves. Years later, the names of more founding fathers in Logan like Major William Stratton and Major James Nighbert, both of whom have parts of the town named for them, would settle here following their efforts for the Confederacy. With the Logan Wildcats of the Chapmanville area and the Wildcats of Devil Anse Hatfield in the military mix for the old Confederacy, and the North’s burning of the Logan Courthouse in 1862, it surely is safe to surmise where the hearts of most of the region belonged during the Civil War.

In this same cemetery that has sadly been allowed to depreciate, there are many other locals who have contributed greatly to the causes of their time. A few even have monuments to glorify their significance. One person of magnitude is Henry Clay Ragland, who could be a complete story himself. Ragland was much more than a proven historian and in 1896 wrote the history of Logan County which was referenced in 1927 by  G.T. Swain in his publication bearing the same title. Ragland documented the first Indian battles of the area and described the early pioneers that formed the county, which was much larger than its present boundaries and even included all of Mingo County.

Ragland has been described as a “lawyer, scholar and thinker”. He purchased a printing press and had it brought to the village known then as Aracoma from Cincinnati, Ohio via the Ohio and Guyandotte Rivers and started his Logan County Banner in 1888. Immediately he went to work urging the industrialization of the county, pushing for railroads to haul the coal which he knew could be mined. Though the internet has taken its toll on all newspapers across the nation, The Banner continues today.

Like his friends, Majors Nighbert and Stratton, Ragland served the Confederacy in the Civil War, but was captured early and stayed in a Mary land prison throughout the war. He came from Virginia and married into the prominent Buskirk family. His family lies in the plot he secured in the graveyard. The Banner recorded reunions of the Confederate soldiers which were held at the Logan Courthouse which burned in 1912. Among those attending each time was Devil Anse Hatfield.

Ragland also served as the town’s mayor and several different times as a City Councilman. His connection to the infamous Hatfield clan may run deeper based on records this writer recently uncovered. While it has been known that Ragland was the proprietor of the Oakland Hotel in the town, it had not previously been reported that the property, which was part of a four-acre tract of land Ragland purchased from Major Stratton in 1884, was in 1892 owned by Devil Anse Hatfield. Oddly enough, this was the year the Hatfield-McCoy feud is said to have come to a close. The leader of his feuding clan, along with his wife Vicy Hatfield, deeded the Oakland Hotel to their son Johnson (Johnse), the lover of Rose Anna McCoy. Urias Buskirk, in an odd agreement with the Raglands, got the property January 26, 1887.

In the agreement, Buskirk was to “make repairs within two years from the sale” and “enclose the lot in which said hotel is located and to erect on said lot a barn as good as that now owned by J.B. Buskirk at Logan Court House.” There are several members of the Buskirk family buried in the City Cemetery.

Ragland died May 1, 1911 of a massive heart attack at the then ripe old age of 68 years. Four years earlier, the elder statesman wrote an interesting will which is too lengthy to quote in its entirety. However, it basically says he left many of his books — Mark Twain’s works, his Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Baptist Encyclopedia, and many others — to various family members as he had no living children.

“The balance of my miscellaneous library I leave to my friends J. B. Wilkinson and J. Cary  Alderson and A.R. Miller” in trust for the Aracoma Baptist Sunday School. Ragland left the remainder of his property to his wife Louisa and directed that at her death: “I give to J.B. Wilkinson, J. Cary Alderson and A.R. Miller, as trustees of the Aracoma Baptist Church, the said house and lot as a parsonage for said church and in consideration heirs of the said church is to see that my lot in the Aracoma Cemetery is kept in good repair, as I now keep it, and if the said church fails to do so then the said house and lot must be sold and the proceeds then applied to the proper keeping up and repair of said lot.”

Ragland chose his viewing time at the church wake to be between the hours of 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and he directed that “the choir sings among other songs: ‘Thy  Will Be Done’.”

Ragland’s plot contains his family and some members of his wife’s family and, other than damage to a monument many years ago, is about as well kept as can be expected. It is the remainder of the cemetery which is shameful. Calculations from the map are equivalent to about an acre of property. It appears half of the cemetery is covered and not viewable.

Two Logan residents who have resided in the town their entire lives remember the full cemetery. Kathy Guy, who grew up near the cemetery, and whose mother (Peggy Crittendon) still owns two residences there, said she sometimes played in the cemetery as a child, as did town resident Pete Manuel, who has been working on property nearby which was damaged from a recent house fire on Cole Street.

“I think there’s a civil War victim buried in the back of the cemetery,” Manuel recalled.

On Ragland’s monument, which he purchased from Monumental Bronze Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is inscribed: Henry Clay Ragland, born in Goochland County, Va. May 7, 1844, died May 1, 1911 “Believing in equal rights to all men, both in church and state, he was a Baptist in religion and a democrat in politics.”

There is an attempt being made to clear the cemetery by using inmates from the local regional jail or possibly other non-violent offenders who should be made to benefit humanity. However, this writer found it simply amazing as to the difficulty and red tape it takes to do what is so necessary. That, however, is a story for another day.

*Published with permission.

 

Posted in Articles, Cemeteries, Logan County History, Uncategorized | Tagged | 9 Comments

Alderson helped elevate Logan to greatness

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson

Some of Logan County’s most precious history has truly been buried within the bounds of Logan County. Unfortunately, along with time, and some factors beyond the common man’s reach, the great efforts of men and women of the past are not nearly as distinguished as perhaps they should be. Take, for instance, the life of Henry Clay Ragland— the man who wrote “The History of Logan County” after first beginning what was then called The Logan County Banner in 1888. Ragland, at least, has his writings that most historical people can always refer to when desiring a recorded glimpse of life in the Guyandotte Valley hundreds of years ago. Ragland is buried in the neglected High Street cemetery in Logan that has been referred to as the “City Cemetery.” Though abandoned long ago, Ragland’s family gravesite there is still easily accessible.

However, there is one man who, like Ragland, was a scholar and an attorney, but his name is not nearly identifiable to Logan Countians as it should be. Yet, this gentleman may have played the most influential role ever in the true growth of what is now the town of Logan and the entire county. This person was so important to the citizens of Logan County, that following his death May 6, 1934, the entire city was ordered shutdown in his honor. This man, who is rarely even mentioned in the local historical realm, much less in the educational field, was regarded as such an influential figure to Logan County that the County Court advocated for the erection of a suitable tablet bearing his name at the then old Logan County courthouse. Likewise, the Logan City Council voted in 1934 to establish a memorial on the soon to be completed brand new Water Street Bridge; a bridge that would have the community buzzing with excitement. This noted person, whose picture should logically now appear at the Masonic Lodge in Logan, First Baptist Church in Logan and in the halls of Alderson-Broaddus College, is none other than John Cary Alderson—the founder and operator of the first bank ever opened in Logan County.

J. Cary Alderson, as he was mostly identified by, was born September 29, 1869, a native of Alderson, West Virginia, where his father, George, was born. The town itself in Greenbrier County was named after Cary Alderson’s grandfather, John Alderson, who came to America in 1719 and established the first Baptist Church west of the Alleghany Mountains. He was a Baptist “circuit rider” until about 1790. The Alderson clan hailed from England and was strongly of the Baptist religious belief.

Cary Alderson completed law school at the University of Virginia, where he also was an assistant professor of Latin and Greek, and returned to Alderson at the age of 21. According to an article written by Alderson years later, a cousin of his had been to Logan County and thought there was a good opportunity for an attorney “in that section of the state.” Alderson— who admitted to not having any “definite plans for life work”—rode on horseback 50 miles to Logan, sending his clothes by push-boat up the Guyandotte River. Arriving in 1890, Logan was still called Aracoma and there were only Indian trails leading to the town that would welcome the railroad that finally reached Logan in 1904.

Alderson wrote, “……..I soon found that the people in the mountains of Logan County were as fine a class of people as I had ever met. They were fair and willing to give a young man a chance to become established. I have nothing but the highest praise for the people I found in Logan County when I arrived.”

John Cary Alderson

John Cary Alderson, founder and operator of the first bank ever opened in Logan County, was so important to the citizens of Logan County, that following his death May 6, 1934, the entire city was ordered shutdown in his honor.

The Logan Banner obituary of Alderson described him as being recognized as “a man of capability, trustworthiness, ambitious and enterprising.” The story further said he was “of quiet, unassuming disposition; firm in his friendships and eminently fair in his business dealings.”

Because of timber interests and then coal companies’ mineral interests (even before there was a railroad to Logan) there was talk of the need for a bank in Logan. With Henry Ragland’s repeated efforts in The Logan Banner for a railroad into Logan to haul the coal interests from the county, Alderson, along with the financial help of Vicie (Stratton) Nighbert, and others, had the vision for the need of a banking institution. Nighbert’s husband, Colonel James A. Nighbert, who died in 1898 as the wealthiest man in the area, had the desire for a local bank prior to his death.

Though the first bank was a small one room structure at the same site that the Guyan Valley Bank would later occupy, Alderson operated it by himself before the very large stone bank opened its doors January 1, 1900. There were those few people of the community then that believed in Alderson’s idea for a bank, simply because they knew of the possibilities that the railroad would bring to what could become a coal community. It would be proven within the coming years, as coal mines opened across the county and workers were imported from other parts of the world, that the Old Stone Bank, as it was affectionately called, was the key to the county’s growing success.

Along with the new workers and new mines operating, came the rise of businesses, pool halls, hotels, churches, and all of the unruliness that generally accompanies speedy growth. Other banks also opened, including the First National Bank of Logan in 1906 and the Miners and Merchants Bank of Man that became operational in 1921.

Logan County grew tremendously following the railroad reaching Logan and eventually the Triadelphia area. Coal camps had sprung up in the dark hollows of the county and the diversity of its many ethnic groups sometimes led to problems, though usually not while the men were working side-by-side digging the black gold from the Appalachian earth. But with the advent of The Great Depression following the stock market crash of 1929, it only took a few years for the economic situation in the area to become grim.

The Miners’ Bank of Man went broke early in The Depression and never reopened again, while it was just a few years later that both the First National Bank of Logan and Alderson’s Guyan Valley Bank also were forced to close, as the county’s future was dimmed almost to the point of a darkened coal mine. Alderson, then 62 years of age, had closed his institution in 1931 and the First National Bank then tried to absorb the old bank which had chiefly been responsible for the industrial development of the county. Unfortunately, First National Bank was also doomed and county leaders, including Alderson, tried in vain to keep it afloat.

Through the tremendous efforts of community leaders, the doom and gloom that had spread throughout the local land suddenly turned into optimistic expectation when The Logan Banner headlines of September 29, 1933 announced: “First National Bank To Reopen.” By his time, J. Cary Alderson had become an invalid at his large home on Main Street, unable to even walk to see his old stone bank that had been built from stone brought from a quarry at Stratton Hollow in Logan.

Though Alderson’s bank was closed for all banking purposes, the two story structure that also contained a basement was the home of Guyan Valley Drug, a barber shop, and a lawyer’s office. The drug store and the building were purchased by legendary sheriff Don Chafin, who opened an office on the second floor. It was there he was once arrested by the deputies of Sheriff Joe Hatfield for possessing illegal liquor. The Old Stone Bank’s front steps in 1932 also provided the setting for Clarence Stephenson, who at his murder trial of Mamie Thurman, testified it was there he was told— by his boss and landlord, banker Harry Robertson (who had worked at the bank along with Mamie)— to sit and watch (on the eve of her murder) for Mamie Thurman to enter or leave the scandalous “Key Club” that was located on the second floor of the Holland Building on Stratton Street; today, it is the business known as “Gold Town.”

The same year his bank closed in 1931, Alderson wrote his will, which spelled out that he was leaving his “mansion” and all its belongings to his adopted daughter, Mrs. Earl (Ruth) Carper. His wife, Julia Altizer, had died a few years earlier and was buried at the then almost new Logan Memorial Park at McConnell where her husband joined her following services at the First Baptist Church in Logan. Alderson, a charter member of Aracoma Lodge No. 99, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was given Masonic burial rites by lodge members who attended the burial in mass. Unlike many important citizens of the county buried at McConnell, who were removed to other cemeteries, the Alderson’s remain amongst the weeds and brush that now have taken over the 20-acre abandoned cemetery; burial grounds whose former owners once promised perpetual care.

Alderson, whose sister and brother had founded Alderson College (now known as Alderson-Broaddus), had over the years donated thousands of dollars to the school, and in his will, he bequeathed even more. In addition, Logan’s first banker left First Baptist Church pastor Robert F. Caverlee, the sum of $5000.

Huge amounts of coal have been exported from Logan County over the years, thanks to the early beginning of the Old Stone Bank that once stood where Logan Bank and Trust now exists across from the Logan courthouse. In fact, J. Cary Alderson left behind a region rich in culture and history. Today, the local communities still maintain much of the character of its towns, reflecting our local traditions, our immigrant laborers and the complete dominance of the coal industry.

Unfortunately, Mr. Alderson, who perhaps has never collected the debt owed to him by Logan society, is buried at the forgotten cemetery at McConnell. He, like Henry Clay Ragland, another devout Baptist, helped elevate Logan to what used to be “greatness.” Today, it is as if nobody even cares.

And that is sad.

*Published with permission.

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Growing up with the Company Store

By Dwight Williamson

Island Creek Coal Company's No. 16 StoreIsland Creek Coal Company’s No. 16 store was located where D&S Machine Shop is now just above the Verdunville Post Office. The center of a coal camp, company stores  were busy except on Sunday’s when they were closed. It is believed that this photo was taken on a Sunday since there are no vehicles or customers.

There was a time not that long ago when nearly every Logan County community had its own version of today’s Walmart. To the mining camp souls who usually lived near the establishments, they were simply known as the “Company Stores.”

Although the discovery of coal in West Virginia happened in Boone County a few years before the start of the Civil War, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that coal mining was being visualized by the “few” as a certain means to become wealthy. Most of the lands of the county were owned by a handful of people, many of whom had “seen their better days” and most had already earned their mark in the timbering business. Farming was about the only other alternative for what I shall term the “Loganites”, a mixture of mostly raw boned Scotch­-Irish, English, German and Welsh peoples; very independent descendants of those adventurers who had traversed the hills and valleys of the Carolinas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio and most certainly “Old” Virginia to settle near the waters of the Guyandotte and in the fertile valleys of the region.

Gone were the so called “savages” who once hunted, trapped and fished in territories the Indian tribes rightfully claimed, victims of the white man’s push westward — a push for some, but not all, to get away from the government’s tax on whiskey brought on by the “Whiskey Rebellion” of years before. Some had been classified as murderers, but most Indians who had survived the white man’s disease of smallpox became the “murdered”. Even their final resting places, sacred only to them, soon would become the white man’s domain. Structures in Lawnsville, now known as Logan, and Buffalo City, today known as the town of Man, cover what scattered remains that have not been removed.

Perhaps it was “subconscious guilt” which caused the early townsfolk to change the town’s name to first Aracoma and in 1907 to Logan; two local historical Indian names still honored today in the summer productions of The Aracoma Story held at Chief Logan State Park. The reasoning for the names really doesn’t matter.

What we do know is that properties were sold and leased to large out­ of ­state companies and these companies needed workers… and, there were few to be found in the then isolated region. Surveys and core samples had been completed and experts knew the mighty black gold was there for the taking. Advertising in foreign countries, where people suffered far rougher economic and social wrongs than America, companies began seeking employees. Some companies even paid for the means of travel to the “land of the free” and the various nationalities were met by company workers as they arrived by boat to escort them to our hills. The travel bill would be taken from the soon to be coal miners’ pay. Negroes were recruited from the still very prejudicial south from the likes of Alabama and Georgia, places many were glad to be leaving.

Mines and railroads were opened in nearly every hollow, so homes were built by the various companies to accommodate the many workers and their families, many of whom spoke little English; their heritage being a mix of Italian, Hungarian, Czech and other languages from far off places. They, along with the black employees, soon would become the backbone of the economy of the county and arguably the great state of West Virginia. It remains the same today.

While the town of Logan grew seemingly overnight from 400 to many thousands in just 10 years, likewise grew the entire county.

Travel was limited from one hollow to the next and roads were few and rough, to say the least. Therefore, stores were needed to supply food as well as goods for its employees. For years, different companies supplied its own form of money known as script which could only be spent at the company store and was useless anywhere else. Prices were set by the companies and when miners did get meager wage increases, it is said the stores raised their prices.

It is the simple truth which the past unveils, and that is: the “Matewan Massacre,” the “Blair Mountain War” and finally unionization brought about changes to the industry both financially and in terms of lives. Perhaps it is because of these changes, long before this writer’s time, that I have a “good” perspective in terms of the “Company Store.” Gone were the “script days” when I sprouted into youth hood.

Growing up in various company houses but nearly always within a stone’s throw (and I possessed what some said was a “good” throwing arm) from Island Creek Coal Company’s No. 16 store on Mud Fork, all my memories surrounding the store are nothing but good- natured. So it is, I believe, with many others of the time period, whether in company store neighborhoods like Holden, Omar, Mallory, Lundale, Shamrock, Whitman, Chauncey, Sharples, Dehue, Amherstdale, Monaville or any of the many other such locations scattered throughout the county and other parts of the state.

Stores varied in size from neighborhood to neighborhood and were numbered to match the nearby mine’s number. Island Creek owned many such places, most notably the four­story Holden No. 22 location which still stands today. One of very few brick stores built, it today serves a righteous purpose as the “Dream Center” for the Verdunville Church of God. It opened October 10, 1936, probably replacing a smaller store. The Logan Banner’s headline of the day read: “New No. 21 Store at Holden Opens Most Auspiciously”. There were various forms of entertainment that day as the Banner proclaimed the store “presents a most pleasing appearance” and presented “the latest equipment and merchandising ideas to aid and make shopping a delightful pleasure.”

Well now, at the 16 store, probably like other locations, our “delightful shopping experience” consisted of a small coke, a moon pie or oatmeal cake and a bag of Dan­ Dee potato chips for a quarter; not that we didn’t have to take a store order for our parents or grandparents upon occasions. We were mostly “kids” and you could have called us the “porch sitters”. Day or night, it seemed there was always someone sitting on the concrete porch just watching the cars go by or perhaps staring at the sky in wonderment. I suspect Homer Hickam, noted author of “The Rocket Boys”, fits into this category from the coal hollow where he was raised in McDowell County.

Our store featured grocery aisles, a section for clothing, jewelry, etc., a hardware area which also had new Maytag washers, Kelvinator cooking stoves and many appliances; all of which could be delivered. There also was a single gas pump for those families fortunate enough to possess an automobile. We were “top shelf” because we even had a butcher, and not all stores did. Our butcher was special. It was said he could cut part of his finger off, wrap it quickly, and never get a drop of his blood in the hamburger he was grinding fresh for someone. Sadly, OUR BUTCHER (Don Moore) passed within the past month at about 80. His legacy as the company store butcher with the friendly smile lives on, as do the memories of those employees who left before him. One such person was the store manager, Dow Thompson. If Dow, as we all called him, was supposed to possess the “company man” mentality, he did not.

During times of strife, and there were many, as strikes often took their toll and layoffs  could be frequent, local families often did without and could not charge at the store. However, I fervently remember him always making sure around holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas, that needy families got a turkey or ham. Children never missed out on candy and other goodies, thanks to the store manager. Since most of the neighborhood fit into the same category, I imagine this was a chore for him, perhaps even paying for it himself.

The two-­story structure served as a community center for all of Mud Fork, as two other stores on the creek (Nos. 15 and 17) had long been closed. The time period I am referring to is the late 1950s and early 60s. There were dances held regularly upstairs. In addition, the Boy Scouts of the late Troop Leader Grady Nelson (State Senator Art Kirkendoll’s father-­in-­law) had weekly meetings there. It was also the home of the Verdunville Woman’s Club. The names of people like Mona Hall, Florence Baisden and Mrs. Ted Hale, immediately come to mind when thinking of the club. Since courthouse records show all of the coal camp houses being built about 1920, it is probable the store came to be in the same time frame.

My group of “porch sitters” were a little too young for most of these activities and stuck to sock hops and Fall Festivals at the grade school located not far away, and today still stands upon the site where No. 16 coal mine operated. It was in the 16 mine two brothers-­in-­law of mine lost their father Bill McCallister in a slate fall when they were infants. In the same tragedy, another great man, my now deceased neighbor, Neil Meade, lost his dad while he too was very young. Such was the case around the county as thousands paid the price of mining coal. Death and loss of limb were rampant, particularly in the early days. Loss of a father naturally meant unusual hardships for spouses trying to raise a house full of children. Other family and coal mining neighbors helped every way possible. It was the rightly coal camp thing to do. Of course, churches availed themselves as well.

Our family home still stands. But, at one time my great-­uncle Albert resided next door. He lost one leg and several fingers in a mining accident. On the other side of our house lived John Evans. He was called Peg ­Leg John for good reason. A friendly man, John supposedly lost a leg and fingers while trying to hop a coal train. I never knew the truth because he enjoyed joking with us younger folk. I guess I should have asked his daughter (Kathy Manley) a long­time teacher and fellow Logan High School graduate of mine now residing at Chapmanville.

My father, Carlos, my grandfather Amos, my uncles Lowell Williamson and Willard (Junior) Burton and Henry Bowers were all coal miners. In fact, nearly everybody in the neighborhood either was or had been a coal miner. My father, who worked for Youngstown Steel at Dehue, said he mined coal under the Guyandotte River, often working in water over his waist. “Don’t ever go into the coal mines,” he once cautioned me. “It’s no place you want to work.” And, I never have.

So, the “Porch Sitters”, sometimes late at night with a transistor radio to our heads  listening to far­ off radio stations like WOWO and WLS of Chicago or WCAU of Philadelphia, thought we were keeping pace with the times. During days and early evenings we listed to local stations and the Cincinnati Reds. And, then came The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival; all this, coupled with the likes of Johnny Cash, Mearle Haggard, George Jones and Tammy Wynette well, no wonder we even today sometimes get funny looks.

While some of the sitters enjoyed passing time filing down pennies to fit the phone in a booth located behind us on the porch, others mastered the art of pitching pennies on that same porch. After all, we really had no one to call.

The basketball rim we had erected near the store kept us busy during the proper sporting season. During days of baseball, softball or football we always afterwards ended up on that same porch — still watching the cars go by and staring at the moonlit sky. The “porch sitters” always knew we could reach the moon.

It is said that “poor people have poor ways”— and we most certainly did.

Ah, but don’t ever be fooled. While some may come and some may go, the “richness” of the “porch sitters” shall live on.

*Published with permission.

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